Get Things Done (Or Else!) With Beeminder and GTBee

Thursday, April 3, 2014
By Andy Brett

GTBee screenshot

At its core, Beeminder is a tool for getting yourself to do things using money as an incentive. Most goals on Beeminder focus on making steady progress over time. But some goals, and some people, work better with a different model.

Let’s say you have to call someone by the end of the day today, and you want to use something like Beeminder to add a monetary incentive to make sure it gets done. It’s a one-off task, that either gets completed or not, with a firm deadline in the near-ish future. Beeminder actually won’t let you set a goal date that’s less than a week away. And even if it did, it wouldn’t make much sense to beemind this one thing — you’d have a single datapoint and the goal would be achieved. Full-on beeminding is overkill for this situation.

“Full-on Beeminding is overkill for this situation”

Enter GTBee. It’s a simple to-do list that integrates with Beeminder’s API. Add a task, set a deadline, and if you don’t check it off in time, you’ll be charged $5. If you miss a deadline, you can decide to raise the motivational stakes and double to $10 (and so on if you continue to miss). You can also just remove the task or start another one at $5. You’ll get a push notification if one of your tasks is due in 24 hours, and again when the deadline is an hour away. You’ll also get an email when a charge goes through. The charges are for real — but if you reply to the email with “just testing” we’ll give you one free pass in case you want to test things out. After that you’re on the hook.

You can download GTBee for iPhone today. It’s only on iOS right now, but the app relies entirely on the publicly accessible and documented Charge endpoint of the Beeminder API, so anyone could port it if they wanted.

Postscript: This post is yet another adventure in dogfooding, since I created a GTBee task that I’d finish this post by 11 am PT. Worked like a charm, with three minutes to spare!

ADDENDUM: Here’s an ingenious way to do something very GTBee-like with Beeminder proper: “The One Must-Do Task Each Day”.

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  • Daniel Reeves

    Thanks Andy! This is a wonderful complement to Beeminder-proper. And almost hilariously antipodal to Beeminder in terms of complexity. You can pretty much fully describe GTBee in a single sentence:

    > A to-do list app where you specify tasks with deadlines and it charges you money for not Getting Things Done.

    I like the example of making a doctor’s appointment, or something where there’s no real deadline but it would be really bad to keep saying “I’ll do that tomorrow” every day for a year, as some of us are wont to do.

  • mikero

    This looks like it fills a nice niche in the beeminding landscape. I hope an android equivalent is in the cards. So it doesn’t set up any beeminder goals at all, just uses beeminder to charge the payment?

  • Daniel Reeves

    That’s correct! Upvote this if you think you’d use an Android version:

  • kefka95

    This sounds EXACTLY like the kind of thing I want to do with Beeminder. It’s kind of like a “must do” goal, but more direct and easier to use. I would very much like to see an Android app (I have an iPad, but my Android phone would obviously be more convenient for this).

    This would be useful not only for one-off tasks, but also for managing your longer-term goals. I find Beeminder to be great for managing goals that have a predictable, routine aspect to them, but I find it more difficult to use for more complex goals.

    For example, I often view a long-term Beeminder goal as something like “do whatever you think you need to do today in order to contribute enough to your goal that you can have it completed by this specific date 6 months from now”. That’s all well and good if you’re disciplined, focused, and adept at planning and organizing your time, but I wouldn’t be using Beeminder if I was any of those things :P

    GTBee would allow you to set short-term goals that are direct and actionable. You can set a goal that’s something like “have this widget programmed and tested in the next 2 hours”, and you would have to have that one specific thing done by that time. To me, this is much easier to swallow than “do whatever you have to do to have this entire thing done 6 months from now”. You could still Beemind your long-term 6-month goal, but use GTBee to break it into bite-sized pieces (it also gives Beeminder more opportunities to make money!).

    Keep up the great work (and get going on that Android app!).

  • Daniel Reeves

    Oh! This just reminded me that we should be pointing people to — I’m going to add that as an addendum now. Thanks! Also thanks for the insightful comment! (And eager to hear what you think of the “one must-do” idea…)

  • Alex Schell

    This is amazing! Mad props to you for thinking of this and making it, Andy.

    I almost feel bad for asking for a feature that will detract from the beautiful simplicity of GTBee, but I would feel a lot better if there were a confirmation step between creating a new task and putting oneself on the hook for it. Something like “Risk $5 on completing in 12 hours?” As it stands, it’s too easy to make mistakes in timing, for example when one wants to quickly put in a bunch of todos with different deadlines.

  • Andy Brett

    Thanks Alex! While it is really frictionless (maybe too frictionless) to create a task and that makes it easy to make mistakes, it’s also pretty easy to remove the mistake by just “completing” the task. Unless the task has a deadline in less than a minute it should give you plenty of time to realize and remove it. But thanks for the feedback, maybe a confirmation would be useful at higher pledge levels.

  • Jess Whittlestone

    Firstly, I think this is awesome and I’m excited you made this. But I feel like for this to be really useful for me, I’d need to be able to set the amount of money pledged for a task at much than $5 from the outset. Would you guys consider adding the option to automatically jump to higher pledge levels with GTBee?

    It seems to me like this automatically jumping to higher pledge levels makes more sense with GTBee than with Beeminder-proper. If I want to get a one-off task done by a certain day, I often really want to get it done by that day specifically. Getting it done a week later because it took me that long to get up to a pledge level that was actually motivating for me has a lot lower value. And generally, $5 is not going to motivate me to do those tasks that I know I really want to get done but I have difficulty following through with for whatever reason.

    It may be that I’m missing good reasons for not having this feature though – it just intuitively seems like it would make it work much better for me!

  • Daniel Reeves

    Ooh, we answer a similar question at (see point #3) and were just talking about whether we’re annoying people too much with that. Would love to hear more thoughts from you on this!

    I totally agree with everything you’re saying though. Just that in practice I’ve found it agonizing/paralyzing to actually pick the large motivating amount of money so just letting it start at $5 and escalating exponentially works well for me.

  • gomisha

    I’ve been using GTBee for about a week now and it’s become part of my daily planning routine. After I plan my day, I enter my “must do” tasks into GTBee with an expiration of that day. Most of the time, I enter “must start” type of tasks. So if I planned to work on project X today, I’ll enter into GTBee “start project X” with a deadline later that day. That way, I’m forcing myself to start on project X by the end of the day. It’s a great way to just get started on so many projects.

    I can now see the potential of GTBee and how it compliments Beeminder.
    I’m thinking of GTBee as the “down in the dirt” commitment device you
    need to start tasks throughout the day. Beeminder is kind of like the
    “big rocks” that you use to fill up your pickle jar that represents all
    your available time and GTBee is like the little grains of sands that
    fills up all the gaps around the big rocks in the jar. Very

  • akuiso
  • Daniel Reeves

    This discussion made us realize that there should really be a way to delete tasks without fake-completing them. So now there is, as of GTBee 1.2! Thanks, Andy!

  • Alex Schell

    Any chance you’ll open source this?

  • Daniel Reeves

    Yeah, definitely. We already did so with the Beeminder iPhone app:

    Keep bugging us about GTBee. There also seems to be a lot of interest in an Android version.

  • ZAllenMillington

    Android Version!!! And make tasks undeletable :D

  • ZAllenMillington

    Zallen here again… It doesn’t look like this app has been worked on much at all since its release. And it requires iOS7 which isn’t compatible with my 4th gen iPod touch :(